There are some things that I usually only buy when they’re in season – strawberries, tomatoes, corn, peaches… They just taste so much better when they’ve been picked at peak ripeness and haven’t traveled thousands of miles. I’m certainly not in the best of shape after traveling that far, but I guess you could say that I get pretty ripe ;P
The flavor bomb of a strawberry that’s just been picked and is still warm from the sun is incomparable. It just tastes like summer. But with the warm weather we’ve been having lately, I couldn’t resist the allure of the organic strawberries on sale at Whole Paycheck the other day (most definitely not in season, but they were just so pretty). I needed to make a quick dessert for a potluck that evening, and since I knew I’d be fried from trying to keep up with the guys for a 50-mile ride that day, I decided to revert to an old favorite – strawberries with basil and balsamic vinegar. It’s a classic northern Italian dessert, and has gained popularity lately in the U.S. Some probably still think it’s a bit odd – strawberries with vinegar??? – but I can assure you that the sweet and savory combo is spot-on. Obviously the northern Italians don’t use maple in their version, but I just had to tweak it Vermont-style!
This dessert is dressed to impress, and will give you some serious clout with friends that haven’t tried it yet. It’s just different enough that it seems a bit posh, but so unbelievably easy that you can whip it up in about 10 minutes. It can be served right away, but I prefer to let the flavors meld for a couple of hours before dishing it out. If you have time to knock out a fresh batch of whipped cream (sweetened with a bit of maple, of course!), then that brings the strawberries to a whole other level. If you’ve got a bit more time and feel like taking strawberry shortcake on a little trip to Italy and Vermont, then I’d recommend taking this shortcake recipe (who doesn’t love everything from Smitten Kitchen??) and serving it with maple whipped cream and the strawberries below. I promise, shortcake biscuits are one of the easiest things to make, so give it a try! And lastly, for those not wanting to gorge on heavy cream and biscuits, then you can spoon these berries right onto some Greek yogurt and have a refreshing and healthy dessert. So many possibilities to enjoy the taste of summer. Certainly felt like the end of winter when we were munching on strawberry shortcake, sipping perfectly hoppy Trillium beer, and warming our feet at the fire pit outside!
Note: I made my first video (!!) to show how to chiffonade basil. Sounds fancy, really isn’t complicated. You just stack the leaves on top of one another, roll tightly, and slice thinly! See below for a demonstration.
Strawberries with Basil, Balsamic, and Maple
2 lb. strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1/4 cup maple syrup (the darker, the better – more flavor!)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup basil chiffonade (see video below)
few turns of black pepper
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